July 15, 2016
Dr. Carla Hayden is appointed Librarian of Congress, makes history
by Chad Felix
In a 74-18 vote by the US Senate this past Wednesday, Dr. Carla Hayden was confirmed as America’s fourteenth Librarian of Congress. She is simultaenously the first woman and the first African-American to serve in the position. She is also the first bona fide librarian to hold the position since Lawrence Quincy Mumford ended his tenure in 1974 (her two immediate predecessors, Daniel J. Boorstin and James H. Billington, were both academics). Hayden was nominated for the position by President Obama in February of this year.
This is awesome. Really awesome. The great Stephanie Anderson, Assistant Director for Public Services at Darien Library, succinctly and accurately expressed the magnitude of the awesomeness on Facebook like so:
!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Congrats to Dr. Hayden, and congrats to Americans everywhere for getting the best Librarian of Congress imaginable.
Amen, Stephanie Anderson. Amen.
In order to assume her new post, Hayden will leave her position as CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, which is itself a beloved American institution. Hayden is credited with bringing Baltimore’s twenty-two-branch library system into the twenty-first century via her early embrace of electronic book collections and e-reader technology.
From 2003-2004, Hayden served as the President of the American Library Association (ALA), a position at which she stirred controversy for her public opposition to the Patriot Act, on account of its infringement of the privacy of library patrons.
Her confirmation on Tuesday, too, arrived amidst some controversy over her opposition to the Children’s Internet Protection Act, a piece of legislation enacted in 2000 that seeks to prevent children from seeing pornographic content on library computers by requiring the use of internet filters. At the hearing through which she was vetted for her new position, Hayden addressed her critics simply and succinctly: whatever her concerns about CIPA’s possible overreach, to the question of whether pornography has any place in public libraries, she answered, “Bottom line: no.”
In a statement given on the occasion of her confirmation, Dr. Hayden said:
This is truly a great honor to be nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to lead the nation’s library, the Library of Congress. It has been my privilege to serve the citizens of Baltimore for 23 years and help restore the Enoch Pratt Free Library as a world-renowned institution. I look forward to working with the dedicated staff of the Library of Congress. I will be honored to build on the legacy and accomplishments of my predecessors in this position, to be part of a continuing movement to open the treasure chest that is the Library of Congress even further and to make it a place that can be found and used by everyone.
Hayden will serve in her new position for at least ten years, in accordance with legislation recently passed by President Obama that eliminates lifetime appointments to the Library of Congress but allows librarians to serve multiple terms. She succeeds James H. Billington, who served in the position for twenty-eight years, from 1987-2015.
Congratulations to Dr. Carla Hayden—and to all of us, who will no doubt benefit from her experience and conviction, her penchant for innovation—and her damn good taste in books. Yep, you guessed it: the United States of America’s fourteenth Librarian of Congress loves The Mirror Thief.
Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.